Friday, 30 November 2012

Spiced and Iced Sweet Potato Pecan Loaf

I adore the warmth and fragrance of seasonal winter spices. Cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves. All deep and woody. They smell the way they make you feel - wrapped up in a warm and comforting blanket.

To go with them, the autumn and winter seeds, nuts and vegetables in a glorious array of colours. Sweet potatoes, pumpkins, and pecans are some of the best.

This cake recipe I've created is a mix of almost them all. Sugar, spice and all things nice !

Recipe - for the cake

200g / 8oz plain flour
200g / 8 oz sugar
100g / 4 oz of sunflower or corn oil
3tsp baking powder
2 beaten eggs
1 cup sweet potato (mashed) - or use pumpkin / squash
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp mixed spice
a good pinch of ground nutmeg
50g of roughly chopped pecans

Sift dry ingredients and then mix in wet until thoroughly combined.

Transfer into a 2lb silicone loaf pan mould which has been lightly greased with butter and then dusted with flour. 

Bake in a 170deg C fan oven for approx 55mins or until a bamboo skewer comes out clean.

Recipe for the Buttercream 

125g of softened butter
3 > 4 cups of sieved icing sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp of maple syrup
small amount of milk as required to bring it together

Spread the buttercream frosting liberally over the top of your cooled cake, then drizzle the top lightly with a little more maple syrup.

Recipe - for the  Caramelised Spicy Pecans

1/2 cup of  caster sugar
40mls of water
knob of butter
1/4 tsp of cinnamon
1/4 tsp mixed spice
pinch of cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp salt
150g of pecans
2 > 3 table spoons of pumpkin seeds

Boil the sugar, water and butter for about a minute without stirring. Pour into a bowl over the mixed nuts and spices. Stir well.

Spread into a single layer on a silicone baking sheet. Pop into a 160deg oven for about 5 mins. Stir well and then flatten out again. Put back in the oven for another 5 mins. Keep a watch they don't burn !

Remove from the oven and stir well. Spread out flat once more and leave until cooled and sugar has hardened and caked to the surface. Break up if required. This recipe creates enough spiced nuts to liberally scatter over TWO cakes, or enough for one cake and a small jar as a gift.

Sarah-Jane Nash - - November 2012

UPDATE - 3rd December..

Made this cake and took it along to December Clandestine Cake Club in Norwich.

Car was all loaded up with passengers. Only Oliver to drop at home with my husband. When we arrived, the house was in darkness. Steve was poorly and had gone to bed !

Oliver was very excited "I'm coming to cake club !"

Wasn't much else for it but to go for a little while complete with a little boy who really should have been going to bed !

Almost ready for bed, Oliver dragged blankie all round the venue.

Oliver looks carefully, then chooses a piece of Lucy's spiced chocolate cake !

Lorraine and Oliver do stickers !

Oliver loved the knitted Nativity and enormous knitted Christmas tree (yes , really) in the Sainsbury Centre, Norwich

Thanks to everyone at CCC - especially Lorraine for the stickers and Lucy for the santa and snowman that were on top of her cake !

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Chef John's Awesome Lamb Vindaloo

I was lucky enough to find the recipe for this via Google the other day. I'd removed a couple of lamb shanks from the freezer the night before, intending to slow cook them in caramelized red onion and red wine sauce with feta.

Right at the last moment, I realised there was no red wine and went rooting for a recipe to rescue my poor lamb shanks. Chef John's recipe did just that. His original recipe is available on his amazing blog at Food Wishes. I tweaked it a little to make it compatible with the contents of my fridge and kitchen cupboard as below. I've put it on my blog for my reference as I know I'll make this again and again...

To Serve Two


1/4 cup of cider vinegar
2 tablespoons of sunflower oil
2 tsp Tamarind paste
1 tablespoon garam masala 
1 teaspoon of salt.

Mix ingredients well and put in a bag with the lamb shanks to marinade overnight.

For the sauce base, liquidise the following

1 chopped onion
300g tomatoes
1/2 a cup of water
6 cloves of garlic


1.1/2 tablespoons of ground ginger
1 tsp of cinnamon
2 tsp whole mustard seed
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp ground cumin
1.1/2 tsp cayenne
1 tablespoon of paprika

Shove the lamb shanks in a very hot oven for approx 20 mins to colour.

Brown a chopped onion until very brown (verging towards burnt !) in a couple of tablespoons of clarified butter. Add the spices and toast for a minute or two until mustard seeds are popping. Add the wet mixture and stir well. 

Add the lamb shanks to the pot and simmer on a low heat for about 2.1/2 hours until the meat is tender and falling off the bone.

I served this with mixed wild rice with some raw chopped yellow pepper mixed through

Teapot Balance Class With Kaysie Lackey At Pretty Witty Cakes

A couple of weeks ago, I was lucky enough to be able to attend the Teapot Balance Class with Kaysie Lackey at Pretty Witty Cakes (in Sussex).

Kaysie is an American cake designer from Seattle and specialises in extraordinary cakes ...... many of which are gravity defying structures !

Never having made more than simple shaped cakes in the past, Kaysie's teapot class was a little daunting and sure to push me out of my comfort zones. The class was very full on - creating this amazing piece took a total of 27 hours over three days.

Carving cakes to form the teapot created a LOT of mess and crumbs !

Teapot base crumb coated with buttercream and ready to cover in fondant.

Pretty Witty Cakes is a superb venue and has many visiting international tutors and pupils.

How Amy (PW staff) manages everyone's names and what they take in their tea / coffee is beyond me. It just kept coming ! I've never been so well hydrated in my life :-)

End of day two - a colourful array of some of the teapots, cups and plates / saucers all painted and dry ready to be assembled the following day. It looks as if most of it has already been done - but there was still so much to do !

Cobblestone bases, cake tables, assembling teapots and cups with spouts and handles and then the overall construction.

There is quite an element of fear in putting one of these together. In the very last moment's, it could all go so horribly wrong !

I must say, I've never before had to use screwdrivers, plastic pipes, metal rods and other bizarre things to construct a cake. There were a few concerned students when Kaysie went looking for a hammer...

If you ever want to try making a cake with a difference, I'd thoroughly recommend having a go at this class. Kaysie is back at Pretty Witty to take classes in summer 2013.

Thanks to Kaysie Lackey and the staff of Pretty Witty (including Suzi's husband - who will probably find half his tool kit missing next time he needs it !) 

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Matcha Green Tea Macarons & Double Sided Macaroon Mat

I love making macarons. If I'm honest, I like making them more than I like eating them (though they are yummy too !) Some people still call these macaroons - but macaroons are very different (though just as tasty) and made from dessicated coconut.

I adore the pretty colours and being able to make them all so uniform and perfect in size and shape. It's so satisfying when things go right to pull two trays of perfect macarons from the oven. Baking on our Revolutionary Double Sided Macaron Mat means you can make every macaron identical in size.

Sometimes it may take you a few attempts to get the hang of baking macarons. The key is making sure that the batter (macaronage) is neither under or over mixed.

You'll find my Youtube video tutorial on making Macarons here.

Recipe (makes 75 x 2" dia shells = 37 macarons)

180g ground almonds
200g icing sugar / powdered sugar
2 tsp Matcha green tea powder
180g egg whites (split into two batches)
200g caster sugar

Preheat your oven to 150deg C fan.

Grind the ground almonds and icing sugar together until very very fine.

Add these to a large bowl with the matcha powder and 90g of egg whites. Mix to form a thick, smooth paste.

Put the caster sugar in a pan with 80ml of water and boil to 118deg C without stirring. When temperature hits 110 deg C, start whisking the egg whites to firm peak.

Slowly pour the sugar syrup into the egg whites, whipping constantly. Continue to whip until thick and shiny and cooled - but a little warm.

Fold the whipped egg whites / sugar mix into the paste making sure not to leave any streaky traces of paste mix of white meringue. It's ready when a ribbon trail of the macaronage starts to disappear into the rest of the mix within about 20 seconds.

Pipe on to your double sided macaron mat to within about 5mm of the ring of each cell. Please refer to my video tutorial in the link above if you need to see how to do this. The macaronage will relax to fill each cell.

Rap the tray on the worktop a couple of times to help release air bubbles.

Put trays in the oven and bake for 5 mins with the door open. Shut the door and bake for a further 20mins.

Allow to cool thoroughly before removing from the mats.

Fill with white chocolate ganache or vanilla buttercream.

To make white chocolate ganache, use 3 : 1 ratio of melted white chocolate and scalded double cream. Allow to cool until thickened but pipe-able or spreadable.

Here is Oliver in the office with Spencer bear and a macaron. 

Spencer is the bear from nursery, and Oliver was lucky enough to be chosen to bring Spencer home and look after him for the weekend.

Oliver was very proud to bring Spencer home. Daddy and Oliver showed Spencer how to light our stove and make the house lovely and cosy.

Unfortunately Spencer had a little accident and got sopping wet when Oliver dropped him in a great big puddle. He had to spend a few hours on the fire guard drying out whilst Oliver and I took the motorbike (powered by feet) that he got for his birthday out for a ride.....

As always, we stopped off to see Bess the dog just down the road. She's such a sweetie. Even she seemed puzzled by why Oliver was still partially dressed as a pirate !

Typically - EVERY puddle was for splashing in. This kid was SOAKED more than Spencer by the time he got home....

Nutty About Madeleines - Bite Size Little Sponge Cakes (Recipe)

Do you like Madeleines ? You know - those little French teacakes that are normally a pretty shell shape ? Oliver ADORES madeleines. They are his favourite cake at the moment and I believe his face light up if he is lucky enough to find one in his lunch box at nursery !

Above is some madeleines I made from this recipe in the classical shape using this silicone bakeware mould. The rest of the batch, I actually baked in an almond / nut style silicone chocolate mould to create dainty autumnal petits fours.

Believe it or not, they were quite quick and not at all fiddly to make. These were demolished by customers coming into Natural Heating to view stoves a couple of weeks ago. The couple of little children that came in with parents particularly adored them !

Recipe - adapted from

Use either our 20 cell nut shape silicone bakeware moulds or 3 x standard madeleine pan (or a mix of both !). I like to spray the moulds with cake release before use, or grease with butter and then dust with flour (tapping off any excess).

  • 2 eggs
  • 2tsp Frangelico hazelnut liquer
  • 125g icing sugar
  • 100g plain flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 125g butter, melted and cooled

Preheat your oven to 170deg C Fan / 190deg C normal and prepare your pans / moulds.

Beat together the eggs and Frangelico. Add the icing sugar and continue to beat for about 4 minutes until thick and creamy. 

Sift flour and baking together and then fold this in in 2 > 3 batches, then fold in the butter.

Spoon or pipe into the moulds. The nut moulds are shallow, so fill those full - but only fill the madeleine moulds 3/4 full.

Cook until the tops are golden and the sponge springs back under your fingers. Takes about 12 mins for std size and 9 mins for the nut size.

For large size : Allow to cool, them dust with icing sugar.
For the nut size : carefully trim the tops and then sandwich together with some melted chocolate mixed 50:50 with nutella and allowed to cool until thick enough to spread

Sarah-Jane Nash - - November 2012

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Mincemeat Streusel Muffins (Plain Muffin Recipe Vamped Up)

This was one of last Saturday's bakes that I took to work.

Saturday mornings in the showroom at Natural Heating  can be stupidly busy at this time of year. The other side of our company sells wood burning and multi fuel cast iron stoves. Lets face it, if we weren't busy selling fires and heating in the Autumn and Winter - there really would be something wrong !

Anyway, it can get crazy busy on Saturday mornings. People come along knowing they may need to wait a little while to be seen. During that time, it's a nicety to be able to offer a warm, home baked cake and a hot cup of coffee or tea.

Freshly brewed Italian coffee and home baked muffins and the scent of burning wood in the air just before you come in our door must be some of the best smells on earth.

This is a very basic muffin recipe I've been using for years. It doesn't stop me changing it around and vamping it up. Last Saturday, I actually made 24 muffins. Half of them were the mincemeat streusel and the others had a great dollop of raspberry jam in the middle and the tops had been brushed with butter and then dipped into caster sugar. The muffin equivalent of a jam doughnut.

The recipe for the mincemeat can be found in a previous blog entry here. For this vamped up version, I put a couple of teaspoons of the mincemeat on top of the batter in each paper cake case and them sprinkled some crumble topping over each one.

RECIPE - Makes 10 - or 12 if you vamp them !

240g plain flour
3 > 4 tsp baking powder
175g caster sugar
250mls milk
100mls oil
1 egg
pinch salt

Sift dry ingredients into one bowl. Mix wet in another and then combine the two together. It will be lumpy, and you want to mix briefly - only until dry ingredients cannot be seen. Don't worry about the lumps !

Put into paper cake cases in a 12 cell silicone muffin bakeware mould on top of a baking tray.
 Bake at 180deg C for approx 20 mins or until a cocktail stick comes out clean.

October Visit to Oxburgh Hall

 The following day, Steve and I took Oliver out for a wander round Oxburgh Hall and it's stunning gardens. The last time I was at Oxburgh Hall, was just a few weeks before Oliver was born. They were having a re-enactment day, and when the cannons went off - Oliver certainly must have had a bit of a fright (it was very loud)  it as he kicked 10 bells out my insides !

My cheeky monkey got a handful of stones when we were not looking, then threw then in the moat....

14/10/12 - Oliver and Ellie take a break outside Oxburgh Hall

Looking back at Oxburgh Hall from the Woodland Walk

By the huge wooden doors at the entrance to Oxburgh Hall

Coming down the spiral staircase
Unfortunately, photos were not allowed inside the hall - but Oliver thoroughly enjoyed sliding down the old toilet shoot into the hiding place (priests hole) in the middle of the castle wall. Steve went down too, but had a bit of a struggle to get out. If he had a struggle, I think I'd have been wedged tight !

Tending to the bugs in the gardens at Oxburgh Hall

Mummy and Oliver have a game of "Run and Hug"
Sarah-Jane Nash - - Silicone Bakeware Specialists - October 2012

Gingerbread Pirate Ship - Happy 4th Birthday Oliver !

Another year, another birthday. I can hardly believe Oliver is already 4 year old. It doesn't feel anything like that long since he was my tiny little bundle.

With a Mummy that bakes, the first thing on his mind about birthdays is what kind of cake he want's me to bake. Forget the presents (almost) because the cake is far more important !

Last year, we made chocolate cake and cupcakes and a rainbow cake. As pirates are still his thing, another pirate cake was requested for this year. 

"Please Mummy... I want a pirate cake - just like last year....."

After some persuasion, I got him to agree that we could still have a pirate cake for his fourth birthday, but it would be rather different to the one I made before.

A couple of weeks before his birthday, I got started with a load of cardboard and basically made myself a 3d cardboard pirate ship. This could easily be tweaked to get it to fit together nicely and give me an idea of the scale of the finished ship. 

Turns out, that whilst I was doing this, the bakers on Great British Bake Off were also making gingerbread structures and chocolate teacakes ! I honestly had no idea and watched it on repeat the following evening.

Having never built ANYTHING out of gingerbread  - the biscuit kind - before, I baked the pieces and then took them to work to assemble. My next door neighbour (Bev) kindly came with me to help hold the parts and put it together. The trial actually went much better than expected and I remade the whole lot to make the tidier, sweetie encrusted  version that you see here.

The chocolate sail proved the most difficult to do, and I admit that I did make THREE of them before I actually got one I was happy to use.The mast is made from wooden dowel rod. Everything else is edible. Initially, we tried sticking the sail to the dowels with royal icing - but it's cold in at work (especially at night) and it just was not hardening enough to hold the chocolate on the flexing mast. Bev and I even tried tying the sails on with strawberry laces (edible candy) - but that just stretched and the sail fell off.

Eventually, I used layers and layers of piped chocolate built up on both the sail and the dowels until the two came together and joined.Then a bit more chocolate for strength. It was still very very frail and I really did doubt it was transportable in any way...... I would have loved another sail on the ship, but time simply was not on my side.

Building of the gingerbread pirate ship !
Well, 25th of October and Oliver's birthday. He had pre-school in the morning and nursery in the afternoon. Whilst he was at pre-school, I put the ship in the back seat of mu pick-up. I managed to collect him from pre school and deliver him to nursery without it being seen. Quite a feat indeed when it filled the entire back seat area !

His face was a picture and the ship certainly caused some commotion at nursery. They were good enough to let me take a photo of him with it before letting all the other kids through to have a look. I don't think he could quite believe his eyes !

I've never such a crowd of very excited pre-schoolers .... Their little faces were a picture.
I would have loved to be a fly on the wall when they bashed it up and shared it out later that afternoon..... 

There was so much ship, it took them two days to munch through it all. 

Ah - Happy Days !

Gingerbread Dough
recipe revised from Martha Stewart

5.1/2 cups of regular cake flour (plain)
1tsp baking powder
4 tsp cinnamon
4 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp nutmeg
125g salted butter, room temperature
250g dark brown soft sugar
2 large eggs
1/4 cup (60mls) golden syrup
1 x 454g tin of Lyle's black treacle

Cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. STOP the mixer and add syrup and treacle. I tried to pour it in with the mixer running the first time - and it flung treacle EVERYWHERE !
Whip again until combined, them beat in the two eggs. Add flour and spices mixture. You may need to bring it together with your hands at the last stage.

Divide into two balls and refrigerate for at least an hour.

Roll out to approx 4 mm thick (it will rise) and bake at approx 170deg C for as long as required.

Small pieces took anything from 12 minutes, larger pieces up to 24mins

In total, I used 1.1/2 batches of gingerbread. Thankfully, remaining dough will freeze well !

Sarah-Jane Nash - - silicone bakeware specialists

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Great British Bake Off Teacakes - Silicone Semi Sphere Moulds

I guess lots of you have been watching the BBC2 Great British Bake Off television series. Rather unmissable watching for any aspiring baker ! Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry set the bakers some rather tough challenges indeed. There has literally been blood, sweat and tears put into the series.

One of my favourite episodes was when they made chocolate teacakes. Teacakes are a thin chocolate shell filled with a light marshmallow creme and finished with a digestive biscuit as the base.

The bakers had to make these on the hottest day of the summer. Many had problems getting the chocolate to temper and set, as the ambient temperature was higher than the setting temperature of the chocolate. A challenge indeed ! I'm rather glad it wasn't me making them that day.....

Anyway, I decided to have a go at making these delicate orbs. Not faced with a blistering hot summer day or the pressure of a competition, they really were quite easy to make. Aside from the disruption of a not-quite-four-year-old practically flooding the bathroom whilst I was in the process...

If you don't know how to temper chocolate, I did write a short guide.

Always the one to attempt something a little different, I had a play at spattering white and gold coloured cocoa butters into the molds prior to creating the chocolate shell by flicking it from the end of a brush. This gave them a sparkly and almost cosmic appearance and I was delighted with the finish.

The GBBO recipe calls for 400g of dark chocolate, whereas I used 200g of milk and 100g of 70% dark chocolate with plenty left over. I poured a small amount of tempered chocolate into each cavity and simply held the mould at different angles until the inside of cell had the thinnest coating of chocolate, letting any excess run back out into the chocolate bowl for reuse.

I will admit - I was rapidly running out of time trying to complete these BEFORE going into work, so I did cheat and used a chocolate digestive biscuit as the case and sealed it in with more chocolate.

The packet biscuit was a perfect size and thickness for the job, but it was a bit on the hard side - I think homemade would have been better without doubt. The marshmallow creme was also a bit over sweet for my liking and there was easily enough to fill 12 shells rather than 6 as stated....I intend having another go at these and will be making the biscuits this time and playing around with the marshmallow creme filling !

Happy Baking to any of you having a go at the baking challenges. 

Sarah-Jane Nash -

Friday, 5 October 2012

Base Madeira / Layer Cake Recipe and Working Late...

I've made a few birthday cakes recently - two in the last week. It's a great excuse to practise some new techniques and practice skills, especially since I don't make larger cakes very often. I've taken to using this recipe for layer cakes. It's dense and holds up well and makes a good slicing piece. It's not going to crumble into a billion crumbs when you cut it.

This Scotty dog cake was made in our new silicone large Scotty dog cake mould (we also do a matching small version for making chocolates). I made up a chocolate recipe batch as original intention was to frost in chocolate buttercream. I used one batch of mix - but to be honest, I should have added another half batch (6 eggs rather than 4) and made it a bit deeper. Always next time !

At the last minute, I changed my mind. It ended up split and filled with raspberry jam and vanilla buttercream and I frosted it in more pink vanilla buttercream with a star tip. I gave the cake a very light covering of the buttercream before piping the rest on with a star tip.

The ribbon originally came from the odds and ends basket at the local haberdashery and had been in my ribbons box for some time. It just worked brilliantly as a collar and I used two brown Smarties (chocolate beans) for the eye and nose. 


300g self raising flour
300g caster sugar
4 large eggs (room temperature)
250g of salted butter (soft - but not melted)
60 to 80ml of milk
2 tsp vanilla extract

Sift flour and sugar together into mixer bowl. Add eggs, milk and vanilla and mix until smooth. Add blobs of the butter and keep beating until all incorporated.

Put into a greased and floured silicone bakeware mould or tin (alternatively use cake release spray) and bake until done and a cocktail stick comes out clean. In an 8" / 200mm dia tin, this takes approx 70mins. It may take less in a bigger mould / tin or longer if you increase the quantity of mix to suit your mould or tin.

bake at 160deg C if using a fan assisted oven.

For the chocolate version, reduce the flour to 240g and add 80g of good quality cocoa powder. A little more milk will be required.

This is the other cake I made this week. Peppa Pig with her teddy - for Amelia's birthday. The bottom tier was two lots of mix cooked in 8" tins and made into a 4 layer cake (with tops removed after levelling). The top tier was one batch split between two 6" tins and made into three layers. It's on it's own board and the bottom tier is dowelled to support it.


I had a couple of late nights at work making these. One night on my own. The second, Martin came in with two of his kids who baked some cupcakes whilst I iced the Scotty dog for their little sister, who's birthday was on Saturday. 

I don't really like being in there on my own late at night. It's a big old warehouse which used to be an American Air Base during the war with the kitchen (as yet unfinished at the top). There is a lot of noise at night. Weird creaks and groans and rattles. Mainly from the roof and the electricity metre - but it does still freak me out !

We know the estate is hunted. Some years ago, my husband saw a ghost in his unit, and Martin (my colleague) has had a ghost (man) walk right past him in the adjoining unit. I'll let him tell you about that sometime. Needless to say, I get creeped out working in there late and had to finish Amelia's cake on the second night as I just couldn't bear to stay in there longer in the dead of night on my own .....

Trick or Treat Caramel Bars

You're forgiven if you thought this was just another caramel shortcake bar....

It's not. It's rather dark and has a wicked twist. Lets say, it's naughty but nice.

An dark earthy layer of crushed oreos and butter lies at the bottom, then a layer of evil chocolate caramel followed by a skinning of chocolate and a scattering of brightly coloured candies. Perhaps the trick is that you'll want to keep my treat all to yourself !


250g of oreo cookies (as they come out the packet - filling and all)
100g of butter
100g of chocolate (half milk, half dark)

For the caramel 

125g sugar
50g golden syrup
1 tin carnation condensed milk
2 tablespoons of cocoa powder

For the topping

75g milk chocolate
75g dark chocolate
handful of m and m's to decorate

For the base - put the biscuits in a food processor and pulse to crumbs. Alternatively, put in a plastic bag and bash them up with a rolling pin. Add the melted butter and chocolate. Stir to combine and then spread out in a 9" square silicone bakeware mould / pan.

Put the sugar and golden syrup in a heavy based pan. Heat until the sugar has disolved, then add the condensed milk and cocoa. Bring to the boil and boil caramel for approx 7 to 8 minutes.

When done, remove from the heat and pour on top of the oreo biscuit base. Allow to cool for at least an hour.

Melt the two chocolates together and pour over the caramel base. Scatter some candies over the top (I used orange, red, green and brown m and m's (Oliver got to eat the blues and yellows !).

As soon as the chocolate starts to harden but is still a bit tacky, score into  at least 16 squares, then place into the fridge over night. Scoring in advance prevents the chocolate randomly cracking when the bars are ready to slice.

Saturday, 29 September 2012

Jamie's Italian (Norwich) - Mummy and Oliver Lunch Out

Horrible grainy photos - take from a mobile I'm afraid.

Oliver had been very poorly with a nasty chest infection. The doctor gave him penicillin and he had to have Calpol and Ibuprofen too for the high fevers plus antihistamine for the rash reactions. Poor kid - medicine three times a day, and normally 4 spoonfuls at a time.

We had loads of tears... "But it's really yucky Mummy"..... In the end, he'd be very brave and take it all. I promised him when he was better, we'd go to the toy shop in the city for a couple of little cars.

As it happens, when we were coming out of the toy shop, staff were starting to put menus out on the tables at the new Jamie Oliver's Italian in Norwich. It's in the arcade - only a few steps from the toy shop. I stopped to ask when they were opening and if there were any available tables. Honestly - I really didn't think we'd ever get a table !

Our luck was in - and we were told we could come back in 20minutes....

We were seated in the upstairs area (opposite the kitchens) very quickly. This table in front of us was filled up just a few minutes after.

Oliver sat and played nicely with his new little cars. That red thing that you see on the seat behind him is the children's menu. It's a 3d viewer thing. You pull the lever and it shows them photos of what they can choose to eat. 

Oliver chose fish fingers with cheesy polenta bites. It was served with a jar of salad chopped into tiny pieces (for him to shake) and some organic cordial. I ordered us some bread to share and a small prawn, fennel and something or other linguine. I also made them aware that we didn't want to hang around - as we were due at the theatre in a snitch over 1 hour. For £5.95 for a kids meal and about £10.00 for mine - that was pretty good value. The final bill including bread and a soda with lime was about £23.00.

The bread selection was lovely - all baked daily on site. There was a selection of white and possibly spelt sourdoughs, some flat garlicky crisp-bread stuff, breadsticks amongst others. More than we could manage between us !

Oliver's meal came on a lovely wooden board (I'm afraid I'd chopped it up for him before taking photos crossed my mind !). My linguine was the best pasta I've ever eaten and full of quite complex flavours. Yum. Oliver is keen to go back for spaghetti !

I must admit, seating and service was very prompt and efficient. We WERE in and out in an hour (just) which was pretty astonishing as the restaurant got very busy. They are very child friendly - and despite the fact there were a good number of children, all were well behaved.

Anyway, I had to nudge Oliver along and get him to pack up his cars in a hurry so we could get to the Playhouse on time to see Hairy McClary (of Donaldson's Dairy !)

It was only afterwards when we got home that I cringed when I realised Oliver had packed up the kids menu with his cars ! He had thought it was a free toy like he gets in Mc Donalds... Oh - the embarrassment.. I bet they lose a few more in the same way. Anyway, I did the honourable thing and posted it back to the restaurant the following day. Least I won't feel guilty next time we visit..